whitetail deer

10 Most Important Deer Hunting Tips

Every successful whitetail hunter has received deer hunting tips that have shaped them as a hunter.

As you know jumping into anything with no plan doesn’t lead to consistent results.

Especially when you’re hunting an animal that has mastered the art of avoiding humans for thousands of years.

That’s why you need to make sure you have a good plan to reach your hunting goals — whatever they are.

So, in this article we’ll go through some often overlooked deer hunting tips and tricks that will ensure you have a successful hunting season.

Below are 10 deer hunting tips that will increase your odds in the Fall!

  1. Hunt Where the Deer Are
  2. Find the Bedding Areas
  3. Minimize Unnecessary Noise
  4. Choose Stand Locations Wisely
  5. Watch Your Scent
  6. Scout, scout, scout
  7. Use Proper Gear for Deer Hunting
  8. Consider the Wind and Thermals
  9. Know the Deer Killzone Very Well
  10. Commit to Your Stand Location

Deer Hunting Tip #1: Hunt Where the Deer Are

Picking where to hunt whether it’s public land, leasing land, or a hunting club can be intimidating.

No one wants to end up investing time and money in something that doesn’t yield any results.

That’s why our first deer hunting tip is to decide your goals early on.

Do you just want to put meat in the freezer?

Then check out your county harvest statistics to get a feel for the deer density in the area.

county deer harvest stats
Example of GA deer harvest stats taken from georgiawildlife.com

Or maybe you want to kill a 120-inch buck? Or just a mature age-class deer?

120-inch-deer
Whitetail Deer in St. Louis, MO that measures roughly 120 inches

Awesome — accomplishing these two feats is possible in basically any area in the southeast, better yet, the United States.

But, maybe, you’re set on killing an absolute giant?

trophy whitetail deer
Trophy whitetail deer shedding its antlers in Wisconsin.

Then you’ll probably want to research areas that consistently produce those types of deer using the methods below:

  • Google the Boone and Crockett entries for your state.
boone and crockett entries
  • Then click on “View Details” to see more info such as county the deer was killed in. Using these details, try googling: Hunter Name + Deer + County Name to find more info on any particular deer.
buck ashe deer
  • Search your property or county in “Places” on Instagram and see what people have posted.
instagram-deer-ga
Picture of deer killed on Georgia WMA in 2019 found using Instagram search.
  • Join Hunting Facebook groups for your property and scroll through their pictures. You’d be surprised how many people take pictures by the WMA sign and post it on the internet.
hunting facebook group deer killed
  • And lastly, reach out to any hunters you know! There’s a good chance someone will point you in the right direction for what you’re looking for. This deer hunting tip helped me a lot! My former roommate and great friend told me where to go and even took me scouting with him.

Doing your research is an important deer hunting tip that will ensure you are in the game to accomplish your hunting goals.

Tip #2: Find the Bedding Areas

Deer are constantly on edge trying to avoid predators. That means, they probably have a comfortable spot where they can do this in peace.

That’s why the next hunting tip is to find where the bucks feel safe bedding in.

Once you find where deer hang out during the day, you’ll be able to pattern them. Then hopefully, get a shot opportunity.

It sounds pretty simple but deer are surprisingly tricky.

After all, mature deer reach their age by outsmarting hunters and predators.

They do this by spending most of their time in thick areas that people can’t get to without alerting them.

3 bucks in tall grass
Three bucks congregate in tall grass that serves as bedding cover.

And that’s why I start by targeting the edges of thick areas near a food source.

Popular whitetail bedding areas in the south include but are not limited to:

  • Young pine thickets
  • Briar Thickets
  • Stream Management Zones (SMZs)
  • Tall Grasses
  • Agricultural Crop Cover
  • Anywhere with a good view of surroundings (sometimes can be a slightly open area)
Locating and understanding a few of these spots on your hunting property is a great way to be successful.

Tip #3: Minimize Unnecessary Noise

The best way to ruin all your scouting and preparation is to be noisy and careless walking to the tree stand.

That’s why tip #3 is to slow down and take your time as you walk through the woods.

This is especially crucial if you’re hunting the edge of a bedding area with deer sitting within earshot of your footsteps.

It can be annoying, but you should walk carefully, especially if you hunt that stand frequently.

You don’t have to be completely silent like a mouse, but you should avoid fast paced walking that doesn’t mimic the cadence of any type of animal in the woods.

A lot of successful hunters recommend walking with the same cadence as a deer.

You would do this by taking a few steps, stopping, looking around and repeating that process until you get to your stand.

Others like to let out turkey yelps with a mouth call as they walk and scrape the leaves as if they’re a turkey scratching.

Either is a good choice during the day.

But I would limit yourself to mimicking a deer cadence if you’re walking in the dark since turkeys aren’t on the ground until it gets light out.

Tip #4: Choose Stand Locations Wisely

Next deer hunting tip is to choose where you hunt wisely.

These are the biggest decisions you make all season and plays a massive part in your success.

Just because you want deer to show up in a spot doesn’t mean they will.

And just because the spot looks pretty doesn’t mean deer will feel safe walking around in it.

scenic hunting spot
You're a lot less likely to see a deer during the day in a spot like this away from bedding cover, especially with a bow.

Afterall, deer are creatures of edge and love skirting the outsides of thick cover that they can escape to when threatened.

trail camera image of buck in thick cover
Mature deer using a transition area during daylight hours a few weeks before archery season opens in Georgia.

To force yourself to get away from “hanging and hoping”, a good trick to go by is make yourself give 3 reasons why a location is worthy of a hunt before you commit to it.

And none of those reasons can include the wind direction.

This is a great tip I learned from the Southern Outdoorsmen Podcast.

An example of this would be sitting in a spot because it has fresh buck tracks leading into thick bedding cover, fresh scat nearby, and a bunch of feed sign from fallen white oak acorns.

buck track in dirt
Fresh buck track on firebreak that skirts thick bedding cover

And once you choose to sit in a tree stand, make sure you hide your outline by tucking yourself behind some branches or use the cover behind you.

It’s easy to forget that while finding a great spot is a step in the right direction, if the deer skylines you and spooks then the sit wasn’t worth much.

So, make sure to tuck yourself away to keep your outline hidden, at the very least, relative to the direction deer should be coming from.

tree stand on wide tree
Tree stand is somewhat hidden by base of tree and adjacent tree's base.

Tip #5: Watch your Scent

Good scent control practices will increase your success while deer hunting especially when hunting from the ground or with a bow.

Deer have a highly developed sense of smell and use it to detect potential predators, including hunters.

deer smelling distance
Deer can smell humans from up to 1/2 mile away (8.8 football fields).

If a deer smells human scent in the area, it may become spooked and blow to warn other deer there’s danger nearby.

To keep deer from busting your scent, you can:

  • Use scent-free soaps and detergents
  • Spray down with cover scents
  • Apply cover scent, such as fox urine, to boots
  • Expose clothes to Ozone dispenser
  • Hang clothes over campfire
scent-control-spray-wash-soap
The scent-free cover spray, detergent, and soap I use to make my scent less noticeable.

By taking these steps, you up your odds of hunting deer successfully and harvesting a mature deer.

Tip #6: Scout, scout, scout

Deer hunting tip #6 is a boring one for some but extremely important if you want to be successful in the woods.

It’s simple. You need to scout and truly understand the area you’ll be hunting!

By now you’ve probably chosen to hunt a property with the type of deer population you’re looking for.

So let’s show you how to pinpoint a specific area on the property or public piece where the deer you’re after will give you a shot opportunity during the day.

E-Scouting

E-Scouting is a great way for you to do this while being thoughtful with your time.

After all, most of us, including myself, can’t be in the woods every day to scout and look for fresh sign.

So one of our favorite ways to find areas that hold mature deer is to look for diverse cover with water nearby using OnX Hunt.

satellite image of stream management zone

A great example of this is shown above by this stream management zone (SMZ).

You can tell it’s an SMZ because the tree line is undisturbed surrounding the stream running through the image.

This specific area is great because it has different types of cover surrounding it that isn’t completely closed canopy.

That means that sunlight can reach the ground which promotes growth that will serve as food and bedding cover.

Deer will be using this area a ton so next step is keying in on how to scout this in person.

Boots on the Ground Scouting

Now that you’ve found an area that deer are likely spending a lot of time in, you should find a way to attack this area to see where the deer are.

I start by seeking out edges of thick cover, transition points from hardwoods to pines, and different topographical features that may use for bedding.

For this area, I would start by walking every square inch of this SMZ and looking for fresh sign and beds.

During the heat, deer are going to be heading to the SMZ to drink water at some point.

So certain areas should have pockets of deer sign consisting of tracks, scat, scrapes, and rubes.

Also, look for matted down leaves and brush where deer have been bedding.

I do this by walking the entire edge of the SMZ tree-line looking for sign to indicate where deer enter/exit the SMZ.

It’s tough to know what sign you find and where that will take you when you actually start scouting so making a general plan like this should be more than enough.

But feel free to go beyond this and use OnX Hunt to look for topographical features that could serve as potential deer bedding or feeding areas.

Tip #7: Use Proper Gear for Deer Hunting

You’ve got to use the proper gear if you want to be successful.

Honestly, doing anything properly requires the right gear in some form or fashion.

It can help you increase the chances of a quick and humane kill as well as make the most of your time in the woods.

Of course, not everything has to be top of the line.

But if you want to be successful, you’ll have to invest at least a little bit in some quality gear.

That’s why one of our most notable deer hunting tips is to invest in some decent gear — at least for some key items — to make your hunt a little bit more enjoyable.

Tip #8: Consider the Wind and Thermals

Considering wind and thermals is an important tip for hunting whitetail deer because deer have an excellent sense of smell and can detect even the slightest scent of danger.

During the day, the sun heats the ground, creating thermal currents that rise, carrying scent molecules with them.

thermals-rising-and-falling-graphic

Wind and thermals affect where your scent will travel, which can either help or hurt you as far as being detected by deer.

So, you should always be aware of the direction of the wind and position yourself accordingly.

Ideally, you want the wind blowing in your face, and your scent being carried away from where you expect to see deer.

Thermals are also important to consider, too, because they can affect wind direction and the behavior of scent molecules.

These currents cause scent to rise and drift in unexpected directions, which will give away your position to a deer.

By understanding the direction of the wind and thermals, you can position yourself in a way that avoids giving away your scent and ruining your hunt.

Tip #9: Know the Deer Killzone Very Well

Before you ever draw back an arrow, you should know the kill zone for a whitetail deer like the back of your hand.

And that includes what shot opportunities you have based on the angle of the kill zone relative to you.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has a great article that shows you images of the deer kill zone based on the different directions it could be facing.

This one is often overlooked because new hunters don’t realize how nervous they’ll be the first time they fire a gun or shoot a bow at a live animal.

Even experienced hunters get the shakes and jitters when their target deer makes its way into their crosshairs.

So that’s why this is such a useful deer hunting tip that will help make you a successful deer hunter.

Deer Hunting Tip #10: Commit to Your Stand Location

This last deer hunting tip is for the vast majority of deer hunters I’ve met and come across online.

Stop being so impatient and commit to your stand location if it’s a solid one.

Deer hunters love to bounce around from stand to stand as if every sit should result in mature deer flocking around them.

That’s silly because mature deer become the way they are by being cautious and staying in cover during daylight hours.

If you’re hunting the area a mature deer does make daylight appearances in, it’s probably not very frequently; therefore, you won’t be seeing many deer during your sits.

If you have reason to believe your target deer is out of the area based on lack of sign or trail cam pictures in another area then by all means move.

But it’s usually smart to hunker down throughout the season and commit your time to some places where you might not see many deer but if you do it will be the big one.

With that being said, hunting goals differ from hunter to hunter.

And no matter what your hunting goal is I hope this article has given you some deer hunting tips that will make you successful in the Fall.

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